Menu
Nov 152017
 

Be prepared for much heavier traffic at the U.S. / Canadian border for the 10 days beginning Friday before the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday and running all the way through to the following Monday.  When you combine Thanksgiving with the shopping frenzy of Black Friday you get one of the heaviest border crossing weeks of the entire year.

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the single heaviest U.S. travel day of the year as families head out to visit relatives and college students come home for the long weekend.   Add in the 7 million Canadians expected to cross the border to shop in the U.S.  and you get a huge traffic spike at the U.S. / Canadian border.

Make sure you are prepared for your border crossing by reviewing ezbordercrossing.com pages on the border crossing experienceprohibited items, and required documentation. You should always check our page for the specific port you are going to use to see if there are any traffic alerts or updates on wait times.

One other tip – before you hit a 2 hour line at the border make sure you have a reasonably full tank of gas and have used the restroom recently.

Peak Wait Times For Thanksgiving / Black Friday

  • Generally speaking, you will find that traffic during normally mild periods resembles peak commute hour traffic.  Waits of 2 hours or more at major crossings will occur at many points throughout the week.
  • The heaviest traffic on will be on Wednesday before the holiday, and again on Sunday.  A fairly sizable percentage wait out the traffic and return on Monday.
  • Peaks entering the U.S. will tend to be in the late morning through early afternoon.
  • Peaks entering Canada will tend towards the afternoon through the evening.
  • The longest waits to get back into Canada on Black Friday will be between 12 p.m. and 9 p.m.
  • Not every port is overloaded.  Smaller ports that are not on the way to shopping centers may be just fine for most of the period.
  • Many U.S. stores are starting their Black Friday sales well before Friday so shoppers will be jamming stores and border crossings for much of the holiday period.

Your Traffic Avoidance Game Plan

  • Your best chance to avoid traffic is to arrive at the border before 7 am or after 8 pm.  Simply put, leave early or late.   As a general rule, traffic is lighter in the mornings and tends to build throughout the day.
  • If possible, use a smaller alternative border crossing rather than the major ports.  Of course, smaller ports may have fewer lanes and officers so you will have to weigh your choices.
  • Be aware that traffic is especially heavy when it mixes with normal commuter traffic.
  • Some ports will open extra lanes at earlier times than usual. You should be prepared to move into lanes that might not normally be open.
  • Think about making an overnight stay to avoid fighting peak periods.
  • Use NEXUS if everybody in the vehicle is a cardholder
  • Always check out the current border wait times on ezbordercrossing.com before hitting the road.  You should also review our page with Projected Canadian Wait Times.
  • You will want to keep an eye on our road conditions page as you near trip time to make sure you know what you will face on the roads.
  • Be careful.  The number of auto crashes spikes the Wednesday evening before the holiday, as well as during the “return home” period of Sunday evening.
  • Work at most construction sites will stop for the holiday but drivers should watch for shifted lanes, detours, and reduced-speed zones.

Inspection Tips for Shoppers

Black Friday

  • Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year so Customs officers will be focusing on your purchases.  This is not a good time to think about hiding what you bought or playing games on how much you spent.  Being prepared can make a big difference in how much quality time you get to spend with law enforcement.  Read through our pages on “Clearing Customs” and “How Much You Will Owe.”  We  also have a Duty Calculator for Canadian residents.
  • Be prepared to detail all of your cross border purchases.  Have your receipts ready and know what the limits are on your personal exemptions.  Review our pages on “Clearing Customs” and “How Much You Will Owe.”
  • Do not wrap your gifts.  The border inspection officer may make you unwrap them for inspection.

Thanksgiving

  • Both Canada and the U.S. regulate poultry products so review our page on  prohibited items before purchasing something you want to bring across the border.  If you plan to bring raw poultry, poultry products as well as other birds or bird products sold commercially that are not fully cooked into either country they may be confiscated.  For example, as of 2015 various poultry products are prohibited from entry into Canada from the following U.S. states:  Iowa,  Kansas,  Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Shoppers who buy poultry or eggs in the U.S. should make sure the packaging indicates the product comes from a state other than an Avian Influenza-affected state. If the state of origin is unclear, the product may be prohibited from entry.  Be sure to visit the Canadian Food Inspection Agency website for the latest list of states from which poultry products are prohibited before you arrive at the border the list changes.
  • Bringing a second turkey back into Canada from the U.S. will trigger high duties that will more than double the cost of the turkey.

If there is any good news to traveling at this time of the year it is that Canadian officers are sometimes told to waive through travelers who owe duties on goods purchased in the U.S.   This occurs from time to time when traffic is backing up badly at the port.  Obviously there is no guarantee this will happen and you are still required to declare all your purchases even if they then let you pass without paying duties.

Traffic Information for Specific Ports

Although traffic patterns change somewhat from year to year, the following is general information about specific ports you can use these to make your plans.

Peace Arch

Roosville / Grasmere

  • Although this is not an overly crowded port traffic will be up a bit as a fair number of  Canadians come to Whitefish and Kalispell for holiday shopping.

Sweetgrass / Coutts

  • Over the Black Friday weekend this port will handle almost double the normal weekend traffic.  The return to Canada is especially bad on both Saturday and Sunday evening although Saturday tends to have the heaviest traffic.  Try to cross as early in the day as possible.  Port authorities typically open up all lanes so the port can operate at full capacity.

Grand Portage /Pigeon River

  • Almost 3,000 Canadians enter the U.S. at this port on Black Friday so traffic will be heavy coming into the states.

Niagara Area:

  • Generally speaking, your best bet is to use the Whirlpool Bridge if all passengers have a NEXUS card. Second choice is usually the Rainbow bridge.

Lewiston-Queenston

  • Waits of up to 1 ½ hours are pretty typical at peak periods.
  • When things get busy U.S. CBP may shift up to three of the commercial lanes to process cars.

Whirlpool Bridge

  • Usually not much delay but all passengers must have a NEXUS card.

Peace Bridge

  • The Sunday after Thanksgiving is usually the Peace Bridge’s highest daily traffic count for November.

Rainbow Bridge

  • The number of car inspection lanes typically remains the same but border services may direct people to a secondary building for duty collection.

Blue Water Bridge

  • The hours of operation for the NEXUS lane has traditionally been extended by 3 hours to 3 a.m. to 9 p.m.    Michigan-bound traffic tends to be heaviest on Sunday as Americans return home from holiday trips

Thanksgiving Weekend Ferry Service

The Thanksgiving / Black Friday weekend is the second busiest of the year for ferry services so you should definitely consider making advance reservations.  Waits can be as long as 2 hours at peak times and foot passengers should be at the terminal about 40 minutes ahead of departure.

In Washington state, the longest lines to be for westbound riders tends to be on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving during the afternoon and evening.  It gets very crowded again in both directions on the morning of Black Friday.

Click an icon below to print, email, or share this page with friends, family, or colleagues:
Aug 272017
 

Labor Day is celebrated in both the U.S. and Canada and it creates a 3 day weekend for most people.  As a result, this is the first or second busiest border crossing period for the entire year at many ports.  Major ports can see wait times of 3 hours or more at various points in the long weekend.  Smaller ports could see 30 minute delays.  No matter when you leave, an accident or other road condition could have you sitting at a border crossing for quite some time.

Your Game Plan to Avoid the Heaviest Labor Day Traffic

  • Time your travel so you are outside the daily peak hours of 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.  Simply put, leave early or late.
  • You should always check our page for the specific port you are going to use to see if there are any traffic alerts or updates on wait times.
  • If you can hit the road on Thursday you will avoid the first part of the weekend traffic.
  • If you can return on Tuesday rather than Monday you will miss the worst of the traffic so long as you also avoid normal rush-hour commuters.
  • If possible, use a smaller alternative port rather than the major ports.
  • Be aware that traffic is especially heavy when it mixes with normal commuter traffic on Friday.
  • Some ports will open additional lanes at earlier times than usual. You should be prepared to move into lanes that might not normally be open.
  • Use NEXUS if everybody in the vehicle is a cardholder
  • Work at most construction sites will stop for the holiday but drivers should watch for shifted lanes, detours, and reduced-speed zones.

Prepare for your Border Crossing

One big tip – before you hit a long line at the border make sure you have a reasonably full tank of gas and that everyone in the car has used a restroom recently.

To reduce delays when you reach the border, make sure you are prepared by reviewing ezbordercrossing.com pages on the border crossing experienceprohibited items, and required documentation.  Have your crossing documents available for presentation and be prepared to declare all relevant items.

If there can be any silver lining to being stuck in line for hours at the border it might be that Canadian officers are frequently told to waive through travelers who owe duties on goods purchased in the U.S.  This is done to keep the line moving.  Obviously there is no guarantee this will happen and you are still required to declare all of your purchases.

Projected Peak Wait Times for the Labor Day Holiday

Every port will have it’s own traffic patterns and weather and road conditions also affect peak periods.  Here are some general rules:

  • About half of all drivers will be leaving on Friday and returning on Monday.
  • Friday vacationers will be competing for road space with commuters so make sure you avoid peak commute periods.
  • The Canadian Border Services Agency takes a stab at projecting the peak traffic periods entering Canada for a about a quarter of the border crossings. We have a link to those projections on our page titled Forecasted Canadian Border Wait Times.  You will need to select a port and then look through the list of holidays to find the Labour Day projections.

Increased Labor Day Police Activity

You should also be aware that there will be heightened police activity in both Canada and the U.S. with special focus around the international border.   Commercial vehicles will be subject to more stops than usual and there will be many more unmarked patrol cars and random roadside drunk driving stops.   Officers will be focusing on safety issues such as speeding, impaired driving,  texting while driving and seat-belt use.  Make sure you know if you are travelling in a province or state that requires hands-free cellphone use.

Ferry Service During the Holiday Period

Ferries will sell out their spaces on many routes during any holiday period. If you don’t have a reservation you should get to the terminals good and early and expect to wait.

Click an icon below to print, email, or share this page with friends, family, or colleagues:
Feb 212017
 

The long Easter weekend is celebrated in both the United States and Canada, producing much higher travel volumes at most border crossings between the countries.  Easter is one of the 10 heaviest travel days in the U.S.   Generally speaking, the delays entering the U.S. are longer than the delays entering Canada.

Your Traffic Avoidance Game Plan

  •  As a general rule, traffic is lighter in the mornings and tends to build throughout the day.  As always, your best chance to avoid long border wait times is to arrive at the border before 7 am or after 8 pm. For example, the U.S. CBP has typically opened up all lanes at Peace arch starting at 6:oo am on Good Friday.
  • If possible, use a smaller alternative border crossing rather than the major ports.
  • Use NEXUS if everybody in the vehicle is a cardholder
  • Always check out the current border wait times for the port you plan to use before hitting the road.
  • Winter driving conditions can change rapidly so you will want to keep an eye on our road conditions page as you near trip time.

Special Customs Inspection Tips for Easter

Being prepared can make a big difference in how quickly you get through the border inspection.

  • Do not try to bring any Kinder Surprise eggs into the United States.   U.S. Customs considers these chocolate treats a dangerous choking threat because of the small plastic toy inside.  In prior years, U.S. Customs has seized more than 60,000 Kinder Eggs from travelers’ baggage and from international mail shipments.
  • If you are carrying plants or flowers, be sure to declare them as plant material is specifically subject to inspection.
  • Be prepared to detail any gifts you are bringing with you and, on your return, those you have have received.  You may have to pay duty on gifts if they exceed your personal exemption. Bring gift receipts with you.  Read through our pages on “Clearing Customs” and “How Much You Will Owe.”  We  also have a Duty Calculator for Canadian residents.
  • Do not wrap your gifts!  The border inspection officer can make you unwrap them for inspection.  One thing you can try is to leave one end open for inspection, but it is better to wrap gifts when you arrive at your destination.
  • Prohibited Items – make sure you read through our material on  prohibited items.  During the holiday season border inspectors seizes higher quantities of foreign fruits, vegetables, meats and animal/plant products.  Fresh fruits and vegetables grown outside of the U.S. or Canada are typically prohibited.  However, even some Canadian and U.S. grown fruits and vegetables may not be allowed.  For example, Mandarin or “Christmas” oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit and pomelo cannot be brought into the U.S.  Failure to declare prohibited agriculture products or food items can result in fines up to $1,000 so be careful.
  • As you approach the border, make sure you have a reasonably full tank of gas and that everybody has used a restroom recently in case you get stuck in a long backup.

Peak Easter Weekend Traffic Periods

Many Canadians have either 3 or 4 day holidays depending on which province they reside in.   Many businesses are closed on Good Friday that is the start of the heavy traffic.   Noon on Friday is the peak for many ports but traffic will be much heavier than usual throughout the entire weekend and on Monday.

Thousand Islands Bridge in New York has seen vehicles backed up to Highway 401.  Travelers entering the U.S.  have had to wait up to two hours Friday and Saturday because of heavy southbound traffic from Canada.

Lewiston-Queenston bridge – at times on Friday mornings and afternoons wait times into the U.S. have been up to 2 1/2 hours.

The Peace Bridge and Rainbow Bridge have seen wait times of up to 1 1/2 hours on Good Friday.   There are fewer delay heading into Canada than into the U.S.

In the New York Niagara Area your best bet is generally to use the Whirlpool Bridge if all passengers have a NEXUS card. Second choice is usually the Rainbow bridge.

Major ports such as Peace Arch in Washington State have traditionally experienced peak wait times longer than 3 hours.  The Peace Arch and the Blaine Pacific Truck Crossing are typically the busiest border crossings in Washington State. Consider using the Lynden / Aldergrove or Sumas / Abbotsford-Huntingdon ports.   In past years, travelers waited more than three hours and 20 minutes at noon on Good Friday at Peace Arch.   However, as wait times at the Peace Arch and Pacific crossings decreased during the day, they got longer at Lynden and Sumas.  These smaller ports have fewer lanes.  At 3pm, Peace Arch reported a 50-minute delay and the Pacific crossing wait was just under two hours. Lynden and Sumas crossings were both reporting waits of more than three hours.

Make sure you are prepared for your border crossing by reviewing ezbordercrossing.com pages on the border crossing experience, prohibited items, and required documentation. You should always check our page for the specific port you are going to use to see if there are any traffic alerts or updates on wait times.

Special Law Enforcement

Many border states step up law enforcement over long weekends such as these.  Police  in New York, Ontario, and Quebec usually coordinate an extensive traffic enforcement initiative called “Safety Without Borders” all around the U.S. / Canada border.  They will be focusing on violations such as speeding, cell phone use, texting, impaired driving, and  failure to wear safety restraints.  Prior years have seen as much as 1,100 tickets issued during a single day.  There will be special attention around the New York ports in Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Thousand Islands, and Blackpool / Champlain.  Commercial vehicles will also be subject to heightened inspection activity to ensure they are in proper working order.

Ferry Service on Easter

Ferry services also experience heavier traffic during the Easter holidays.  Washington BC Ferries have traditionally been busy on Good Friday, with delays reported throughout the day.  You should consider making advance reservations, or plan to show up about an hour before departure time. Foot passengers should be at the terminal about 40 minutes ahead of departure.

According to BC Ferries, the historically busiest sailings over the Easter long weekend are:

  • Vancouver-Victoria: 7 a.m. to noon Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay on Friday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay on Monday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen on Monday.
  • Vancouver-Nanaimo: 3:15 p.m. Duke Point-Tsawwassen on Monday.
  • Horseshoe Bay-Nanaimo: 6:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay on Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Departure Bay-Horseshoe Bay on Monday.
  • Horseshoe Bay-Sunshine Coast: 12:20 p.m. to 8:20 p.m. Langdale-Horseshoe Bay on Sunday, 10:20 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Langdale-Horseshoe Bay on Monday.
Click an icon below to print, email, or share this page with friends, family, or colleagues:
Jun 212016
 

You should be prepared for much heavier traffic at most border crossings between June 28th and July 8th.  During this 10 day stretch Canadians celebrate Canada Day and the War of 1812, while Americans get days off work for the 4th of July.   This is also the unofficial start of the summer vacation season when traffic volumes rise significantly.

Holiday Dates

  • Canada Day – Monday July 1st is a national day off.  Much like America’s Independence Day, Canada Day is celebrated across the country with fireworks, picnics and travel. Government offices and most businesses are closed for the day.
  • Fourth of July – Wednesday, July 4th with most people having a 4 day weekend.
  • War of 1812 Celebrations – Spread out over the entire weekend

Peak Wait Times

In general, the larger border crossings can see huge delays during this holiday period.  Border crossing in Washington such as Peace Arch and Pacific Highway frequently see backups of up to 2 hours.   New York ports such as the Lewiston Bridge and Peace Bridge have had delays of up to 3.5 hours in some years.

The Canadian Border Services Agency publishes estimated wait times for some of the major ports which will give you an idea of what you will encounter when entering Canada.

The Washington State Department of Transportation has some great charts showing traffic volume for Highway 5 during the Fourth of July period.   In addition, British Columbia has a tool which you can use to estimate traffic backups entering either the Washington State or British Columbia over these holidays.

Your Traffic Avoidance Game Plan

Make sure you are prepared for your border crossing by reviewing ezbordercrossing.com pages on the border crossing experienceprohibited items, and required documentation. You should always check our page for the specific port you are going to use to see if there are any traffic alerts or updates on wait times.

One other tip – before you hit a 2 hour line at the border make sure you have a reasonably full tank of gas and have used the restroom recently.

  • Your best chance to avoid traffic is to arrive at the border before 7 am or after 8 pm.  Simply put, leave early or late.   As a general rule, traffic is lighter in the mornings and tends to build throughout the day.
  • If possible, use a smaller alternative border crossing rather than the major ports.  Of course, smaller ports may have fewer lanes and officers so you will have to weigh your choices.
  • Be aware that traffic is especially heavy when it mixes with normal commuter traffic.
  • Some ports will open extra lanes at earlier times than usual. You should be prepared to move into lanes that might not normally be open.
  • Think about making an overnight stay to avoid fighting peak periods.
  • Use NEXUS if everybody in the vehicle is a cardholder
  • You will want to keep an eye on our road conditions page as you near trip time to make sure you know what you will face on the roads.
  • Work at most construction sites will stop for the holiday but drivers should watch for shifted lanes, detours, and reduced-speed zones.

Increased Canada Day / 4th of July Police Enforcement

You should also be aware that there will be heightened police activity in both Canada and the U.S. with special focus around the international border.   One initiative, called “Safety Without Borders,” will target traffic violations such as speeding, failure to wear seat belts, impaired driving and use of hand-held electronic devices on roads around border crossings in Ontario, Quebec, New York and Vermont.

Across both countries, you should expect to see an increased police presence including many more unmarked patrol cars and random roadside drunk driving stops.  The bottom line: drive safely, don’t drink and drive, no texting while driving, and make sure you know if you are travelling in a province or state that requires hands-free cellphone use.

Bringing Fireworks Across the U.S. Canadian Border

Simply put – you can’t bring fireworks across the border into either the U.S. or Canada unless you have an import permit.   Border inspection officers are always on the lookout for fireworks hidden in sleeping bags, trunks, and other places in the vehicle.

Ferry Service During the Holiday Period

Ferries will sell out their spaces on many routes during any holiday period.  If you don’t have a reservation you should get to the terminals good and early and expect to wait.

Click an icon below to print, email, or share this page with friends, family, or colleagues:
Jun 072016
 

The Christmas to New Years holiday period does not create the massive border backups that you see with other holidays.  However, that does not mean you will never get caught in a 2 hour queue.

Perhaps because holiday events spread out across a longer period, it is tougher to predict exactly when the longest delays will occur.  Instead, you will need to pay more attention to winter road conditions and current traffic to try to avoid the biggest backups.  You should also review our page with Projected Canadian Wait Times which shows the Canadian Border Service Administration’s estimates of the busiest times at some of the bigger ports.

As a general rule, the winter months of December, January and February are the lowest volume travel times of the year.   During the Christmas / New Years holidays, lots of people are on vacation so commute traffic is much lighter than normal.

On the other hand, travel to visit family will be significant.  As a general rule, you should expect that traffic could be heaviest just before Christmas and on the weekend following it.

Your Traffic Avoidance Game Plan

  •  As a general rule, traffic is lighter in the mornings and tends to build throughout the day.  As always, your best chance to avoid long border wait times is to arrive at the border before 7 am or after 8 pm.
  • If possible, use a smaller alternative border crossing rather than the major ports.
  • Use NEXUS if everybody in the vehicle is a cardholder
  • Always check out the current border wait times for the port you plan to use before hitting the road.
  • Winter driving conditions can change rapidly so you will want to keep an eye on our road conditions page as you near trip time.

Special Customs Inspection Tips

Being prepared can make a big difference in how quickly you get through the border inspection.

  • Be prepared to detail any gifts you are bringing with you and, on your return, those you have have received.  You may have to pay duty on gifts if they exceed your personal exemption. Bring gift receipts with you.  Read through our pages on “Clearing Customs” and “How Much You Will Owe.”  We  also have a Duty Calculator for Canadian residents.
  • Do not wrap your gifts!  The border inspection officer can make you unwrap them for inspection.  One thing you can try is to leave one end open for inspection, but it is better to wrap gifts when you arrive at your destination.
  • Prohibited Items – make sure you read through our material on  prohibited items.  During the holiday season border inspectors seizes higher quantities of foreign fruits, vegetables, meats and animal/plant products.  Fresh fruits and vegetables grown outside of the U.S. or Canada are typically prohibited.  However, even some Canadian and U.S. grown fruits and vegetables may not be allowed.  For example, Mandarin or “Christmas” oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit and pomelo cannot be brought into the U.S.  Failure to declare prohibited agriculture products or food items can result in fines up to $1,000 so be careful.
  • As you approach the border, make sure you have a reasonably full tank of gas and that everybody has used a restroom recently in case you get stuck in a long backup.
  • Prepare for your border crossing by reviewing ezbordercrossing.com pages on the border crossing experience, and required documentation.
  • Christmas trees – any tree you bring across the border will be closely inspected by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists at U.S. ports of entry.  You will be required to return the tree to Canada if they find harmful insects or pests.  You may also be required to get a certification from the grower that their trees conform with various rules before it is allowed across the border.  Your best bet is to call a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialist at the port you are planning to use before you head into Canada to make your purchase.  We have the telephone number for each U.S. port on the dedicated page for the border crossing.

Increased Police Arrests During the Christmas / New Years Holiday Season

It should come as no surprise that police activity is very heavy during the holiday season with special emphasis on drunk drivers.  This is true in both the U.S. and Canada – and at the border itself.  Do not arrive at the border intoxicated.  You may end up spending your holidays in jail.

Click an icon below to print, email, or share this page with friends, family, or colleagues: